A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Our crime factory in Salem

Written April 13th, 2015 by Hasso Hering
Under the Capitol dome, where they think of new crimes for us to commit.

Under the Capitol dome, where they think of new crimes for us to commit.

Sad to say, one part of the business of the legislature is to create crimes, and Senate Bill 941 is only the most notorious example of this. It declares that something that is perfectly legal now — selling, without asking the government’s permission, an item (a firearm) whose ownership is protected by the Constitution — becomes a misdemeanor punishable by a year in jail. And if it’s done again, the punishment is up to 10 years behind bars plus a quarter-million-dollar fine.

Sometimes bills openly state that creating crime is the result, if not the point. Senate Bill 945, for example, says in its summary: “Creates crime of endangering a minor by allowing access to a firearm” The bill itself says that if somebody leaves a gun where a minor finds it, the punishment for the adult is up to one year in prison plus a $6,250 fine.

The goal is to get people to lock up their guns, which is the obvious thing to do when kids are around. But if some careless adult fails in this and his kid loses his life as a result, how is anybody better off if the careless adult spends a year in jail, loses his job and the family becomes homeless as a result?

Senate Bill 913 would create the crime of “trafficking in animal parts,” namely ivory and material from rhinoceros horns. The bill would outlaw selling and buying the stuff, but also “offering for sale” and “possession with intent to sell.” So you can own an ivory brooch, but if you think you might sell it as an antique if times get tough, you are committing a misdemeanor with a top penalty of 30 days in jail. Not only that, but the cops can take away the brooch and give it to a university.

Never mind that without thought control, the ivory police would not know about your “intent.” They wouldn’t, but you’re still burdened with the knowledge that you’re a criminal at heart.

Among the more bizarre proposals, House Bill 3255 “creates offense of failure of bicycle operator to wear reflective clothing” after sundown. The possible fine for this Class D traffic violation is a $250 fine. That bill is not going anywhere. Neither is SB 177, which “creates offense of failure to register bicycle.” It also creates another offense: Failure to obtain a bicycle license if you’re over 18 and ride a bike in public.

Wouldn’t it be nice if the legislature were required to repeal a crime or civil offense for every new one it dreams up? (hh)

7 responses to “Our crime factory in Salem”

  1. Shawn Dawson says:

    HI Hasso,

    It’s interesting to me that I have had the same thought running through my head for a decade or more. Put a limit on the total number of laws in existence and require that one be removed for every new law passed. It’s unrealistic I know, but still would be good I think.

    We remove clutter in all other aspects of life — the house, yard, food. As a programmer, we do the same with older codes (even those we wrote and in which we put the clutter). Times change, conditions change, requirements change, hardware changes. It become necessary. It seems like the same general rule applies to laws to allow them to be focused on the requirements of society today.

    I guess the same is true for tax laws — but the vested interests to do that seem insurmountable. I’m on a tangent here, but if federal and state taxes were withdrawn in a reverse social security model, then there would be no need to file at all. (Reverse social security would be something like 0 taxes on first 15,000 per year, then 5% on second, 10% on third, etc. up to some top tier of 35% or whatever). This would preserve the progressive tax scheme where the working poor (or retired) who can’t afford as much pay less, while those who earn more pay a higher percentage.

    The actual numbers could be adjusted to what is actually needed, though.

    But this would lose some of the few important tax credits(the most troublesome to me would be medical expenses, education expenses, dependent exemptions, mortgage/rent). But it would also streamline the entire system,saving the population and the government a lot of money, so those could be addressed in another manner to achieve the same effect.

    I’m rambling now, so I’ll sign off.


  2. Gary Richards says:

    Did legislation create the crime of DUI? One has to consider this before taking a position that a legislative change in law against an action deemed permissible today would, in and of itself, be the “creation” of a crime as it relates to the transfer of the ownership of a gun.

    After all, laws against DUI didn’t hit the books until the early 1900’s (laws that were mostly ineffective since they were poorly written.) That being said, was it the 1910 legislative action that created the crime of DUI or did society’s overall perception of what constitutes a criminal action change with the realization of the harmful effects that those driving while intoxicated inflict that mandated the need for this legislative action?

    Sure, if a random, arbitrary, and capricious legislative action creates a crime through definition then there most certainly is a problem with the process. However if a law created through legislative action is in response to the majority of public sentiment that itself deems the action in question to be criminal by nature then, and by definition, the legislative action is nothing more than a response to the will of the majority or the people our elected officials represent. This makes the legislation in question not the creation of a crime but instead the recognition of a harmful action of what constitutes a crime in the eyes of the public.

    • James Carrick says:

      Mr Richards, Please be advised that the 2nd Amendment of the United States Constitution is a guaranteed individual right and the laws that surround gun ownership have always kept that concept intact.

      Do I need to remind you that driving under the influence is in NO WAY comparable? Apparently so. Your argument is specious at best and only a fool would fall for it.

      • Gary Richards says:


        Is the making of a law the creation of a crime or is it instead a response to a real issue society faces and presents an outspoken position toward.

        Sure, one has the right to own a gun, but that ownership contains inherent responsibilities as well. If society deems gun owners who do not live up to basic gun ownership responsibilities need to be held responsible for their irresponsibility then so be it. And the DUI example was simply an example of the premise that laws are enacted as a response to changing societal pressures versus arbitrary legislative actions. To attempt to make it out as the entirety of my argument is absurd.

        Mr. Carrick, there is nothing specious about my argument. Your response, however, does fall suspect to the offhanded accusation you direct at me.

        • James Carrick says:

          Offhanded accusation?

          • Gary Richards says:

            Yes, offhanded accusation – can you say “specious” (also known as “false, erroneous, inaccurate, phony, sham, misleading, deceptive”). The “accusation” that my argument is specious when, in fact, it is sound reasoning used to present a premise that works to validate my point.

          • James Carrick says:

            Gary, can you say opinion? Here’s how Google defines “specious”:

            superficially plausible, but actually wrong.
            “a specious argument”
            misleading in appearance, especially misleadingly attractive.
            “specious reasoning”

            Gary, I stand by my comment. I’m not buying your argument, one I’ve heard many times before. I guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree, but my comment hardly qualifies as an “accusation.” Rather, it is my OPINION of your argument.


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